Why is Half of my Face Falling?
I awoke Monday morning on April 6th just like any other day. My plans for the day were to work out of the dog/cag food shop that my business partner had recently purchased. Paul was off to Thailand for a week and the previous owner and a new hired manager were keeping things moving along while out. Because I have been using the shop a few days a week as an office, I decided to head in as usual and really had a great day. It has been over ten years since I have worked in a pet shop, and all the fond memories keep me going during the stress of starting a new company. During the day I had met a couple of people that would be great connections for the agency, and my favorite pup “Bear” came in to visit. It truly was a fun and energetic day.
That afternoon I noticed that my lip wasn’t moving when I smiled and it felt tingly, almost as if I was having an allergic reaction to something or had been to the dentist. At first I didn’t think much of it, but it progressively began to persist and get slightly worse. My Daughter Katie was with me as she was home from school for spring break, so I mentioned it to her a few times as the day progressed. She looked it up on her phone and listed a few possibilities of what could be going on. I had the “You know what to do if there is an emergency” talk with her. You know, the one you have with your little ones (especially as a single Mom) to ensure they could be that amazing little 3 year old that knew to call 911 when their Mommy fell ill? Katie and I had a refresher during the drive home that evening and a run through of family members to call (and a reminder not to call the one I’m divorcing) just in case.
By the end of the evening my ear had a dull throbbing pain to it and there was a sharp pain in my neck, almost as if I was being poked by the tip of a knife. I didn’t want to alarm my Daughter anymore than I probably had at that point and I figured I was probably not at risk since I was still talking and functioning just fine, so I kept quiet about the pain and went to be early.
The next morning I woke up to the whole side of my face drooping as if I had been to the dentist for a full on root canal and my eye was watering incessantly. I finally made the call to the Doctor’s office to see if I could make an appointment. After telling the woman on the line that my face was drooping, she asked a series of questions and finished up with “Are you able to call 911?”. I said “Yes.” with a long deep pause then :Should I be calling 911?”. She said that the system was saying this is a “critical issue”. Since, at the moment, I didn’t have insurance and calling 911 with a dispatch of an ambulance and paramedic with a trip to the ER is a bill I did not want to deal with, I asked if I could just go to critical care since I was feeling well enough that I could drive. She said to hold on while she tries to get a hold of a nurse from my Doctor’s clinic. When the nurse popped on the line, she questioned me some more and said that it seemed I have Bell’s Palsy and explained that it isn’t serious, but to be sure I need to see a Doctor right away to rule out stroke. While the two were on the phone with me they coordinated getting me into my regular doctor’s office with another physician there just a few hours out.
I called my parents to let them know what was going on, and to borrow the money it cost to visit the Doctor. Mom was concerned, and both were very helpful. After checking in, my Daughter and I sat in the waiting room and waited for the nurse to come out. Only the nurse didn’t come out, it was the Doctor that came out herself. She asked me a few questions as her eyes scanned me up and down. I could tell she saw I was a bit puzzled as she asked all the odd questions, she then explained she was just wanting to be sure I wasn’t having a stroke.
After being weighed and talking with the nurse, the Doctor returned with me in the exam room. She asked me some more questions and said she was sure that it was Bell’s Palsy, but she wanted a second opinion to completely rule out stroke. Another Doctor walked in and examined me while asking the same series of questions I had gotten from the nurse and the other Doctor. She said that she was sure it was Bell’s Palsy and that she didn’t feel I needed an MRI.
I Have Bell’s Palsy
So that was that. I was officially diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, and thankfully I was not having a stroke. The Doctor prescribed me 60 MG a day of Prednisone for 5 days then reduce by 10 MG daily for 5 more days for a total of 10 days. I was also given an antibiotic in the case it is caused by the same herpes that can cause cold soars, or some sort of virus. Though we concluded there is no way it could be from herpes as I have never had cold sores, and have been with the same man for the last 7 years. However the Divorce, the new company, financial strains, and two teenagers with a lot of attitude could potentially be the core of the stress that could have led to the Bell’s Palsy.
After being released from the Doctor and picking up my $400 prescriptions, I headed to the Kid’s Dad’s work to pick up my Son for the remainder of Spring Break. After arriving at the dealership where he works, I was told that my Son was at his home. I ended up meeting his girlfriend at a local market and then off to the barn where we keep the horses we went. I pulled my Thoroughbred “Henry” out of the pasture while the kids got their horses. I just brushed him down lightly and then leaned on him for a while. My favorite place to lean on him is just at the base of his neck as he wraps his head to to my back and we sort of hug as best we can.
That evening I stopped through McDonald’s for a quick meal for the kids and to home we went. On the way I asked my Daughter to please walk the dog when we got home since she hadn’t been out yet. I immediately got a “Why?” out of her, and I wasn’t in the mood to explain why and deal with the questions and arguments that were to follow. We proceeded to get into one of the worst fights we have ever been in. I lost it, started crying and went into my room. I later came out and asked both of them to sit down on the couch for a moment. I sat with them facing the two and explained to them that in the past I have always been very strong. When they were little and there wasn’t enough money to pay the power bill to the point where it was shut off, or when I went through the courts after my X Husband went to jail for spanking my Son, I didn’t once ever show any sign of weakness. I powered through and kept the crying for late nights when no one could see or hear. The kids where too young then to really know what was going on, and I explained that to them. That I could turn the darkness into something fun with a little camp out in the living room with candles and story time. But now, they understand, and really should understand, that what I went through today was pretty rough, and the next few weeks and months were going to be very difficult. I need their support now by just being calm, doing what I ask without an argument, and not arguing with each other. They both then came over to me and gave me a hug. We all spent the rest of the evening together quietly.
Day Two and the Struggles I Faced
On April 8th, the day after my diagnosis, I ran through my head all the things I needed to take care of now that I have Bell’s Palsy. I cancelled my video interview with the marketing team at the University of Washington Medical Center (my post on the Cervical Cancer came to their attention, and they like to use me for marketing purposes). I also had to cancel the workshop I was to teach that next Saturday. There is no way I could get in front of a room full of students and talk for 8 hours. I then drove to the Pharmacy and picked up my prescriptions. It was $399 for it all – which dug deeply into my pockets. I then had to tell the kids we were eating at McDonald’s rather than a nicer lunch at the Chinese place for Dim Sum.
All three of us drove up to the barn to see the horses. It was good to get the kids on their horses, and I just spent time with Henry quietly. I knew I was in no shape to ride as the Bell’s Palsy caused unbalance, my eye wasn’t working, and I couldn’t see very well. I spoke with a couple of the women at the barn while the kids enjoyed their horses. Mark (the man that stays on the property and cares for the horses) said “Did you go to the Dentist again today?” I chuckled and said “No, I have Bell’s Palsy. It’s a temporary paralysis to one side of my face.”
As we were wrapping up at the barn, the kids both went to get into the car and I began to put the brushes and equipment into the tack room. All of a sudden I heard one of the women at the barn yell “You two knock it off.” and came to me and said “I’m sorry, but they are really fighting bad.” I came out of the tack room and yelled at Charlie to come help me. He said that Katie was in the front seat and it was his turn. Ahhh yes, the age old argument of who gets the front seat. It’s such a popular argument that I had a great many images of kids fighting over the front seat to choose from. I fought with my brothers. and my kids fight with each other. Only today was not the day I felt like dealing with it. I was tired, I didn’t feel well from the first Steroid and Antibiotics I had taken earlier, and I generally was just getting hit by so much that fighting kids was the last on my things I wanted to deal with. I told Katie to get into the back, and I got the response “Why?”. I said “Because you have had it all week up until now, and it is his turn. He gets it all day today, and you can have it tomorrow.” She proceeded to argue with “That’s not fair.” and the usual arguments I get. I finally got her to move with a threat of not getting the front seat at all the rest of the week, and she reluctantly moved. I closed the tack room, and heard Dana yell “Hey you two.” again. She said that Katie was hitting Charlie pretty hard. I rushed through closing things up so I could just get them out of there as quickly as possible. I got into the car and told Katie I am taking her to her Dad’s as I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her attitude. She began to scream at me kicking the back of my seat and then screamed into my bad ear. As us Bell’s Palsy folks call it “My BP ear.” You see, one of the drawbacks of having Bell’s Palsy is that your hearing is extremely sensitive, and there is a pain that comes with loud noises and your Bell’s Palsy ear – as I learned at that moment. The pain was excruciating, but I kept my calm and told her if she didn’t stop I wouldn’t allow her at my place for weeks. She still yelled and said horrible hurtful things to me. She said I cared more about Charlie than her, that I needed to be more of a Mom than a friend, and that I didn’t car enough to try to work things out with her. All the same stuff she defaults to when she is upset. Really, a lot of the same things I said to my Mother when I was a teenager and angry at the world (code name for my Mother). I arrived at Dad’s house and while Charlie told me he is staying too and got out, I asked Katie to get out of the car. “No” she said. I then go out calmly and said “I am going to count to 10, and if you aren’t out of the car I am going to pull you out myself.” She remained in the car while I counted. Charlie came over to give me a hug goodbye as I continued to count slowly. “10” I said as she remained in the car. I went to undo her seat-belt and her legs flailed violently. That girl was not coming out of the car without a fight. I opened up the back to reach in and undo her seat-belt from there (to avoid the death feet). She hit my arm repeatedly and with a sharp pain I withdrew. Something snapped in my wrist pretty bad, so I stopped at that point, I asked Charlie to get Dad’s girlfriend (who was in the house while he was off at work). She came out and I explained that I have Bell’s Palsy (so she could understand my distorted face and slurred speech), and told her that Katie was being unreasonable. I couldn’t deal with it and really needed her help getting Katie out of the car. She bent down and talked to Katie for a while and eventually she came out. I told her I would being her things that are still at my house tomorrow. Holding my arm, I got back into the car and drove home.
I spent the rest of the evening taking a bath, watching a movie, and then just crashed into bed early. The quiet was very nice.
It Will Get Worse Before it Gets Better
The next morning I woke up after sleeping in quite a bit and attempted a shower. My right eye would not close at all. With every blink the eye just stayed open. The Doctor had said that it would get worse before it would start to get better. I joined a support group on Facebook and looked through all that everyone there was going through. I posted my quick story and introduction to the pinned post asking everyone to introduce themselves. It was nice to see so many others with the same thing and getting through it. My Morphea (Schleroderma) is something so rare that finding a support group that was even active was a struggle. Luckily the Morphea is just a skin condition and I only have a small patch on my knee and a light bit on my neck that is barely visible.
Mt vision was much worse that it had been the day before. I was was very dizzy, even when sitting, and I walked like I was very drunk. I ended up taping my eye shut as it was not closing, and was bouncing between dryness and watering. I just used a simple piece of bandage as I didn’t have any first aid tape, but that kept coming off. I was afraid to drive anywhere, so I eventually walked to the store next door wearing sunglasses. I bought first aid tape and a pack of large oval shaped bandages that sealed wounds up on active and swimming children. The one piece of tape held the eye down and the bandage held that in place.
I worked quite a bit on the computer, but designing anything wasn’t working as my vision wasn’t doing well. I took a long nap in the afternoon, worked a bit more, and then went to bed early.
On April 10th I received a message from the kid’s Father to pick Charlie up. He didn’t have anyone available to watch the kid, and he didn’t trust leaving the two kids home alone. I drove to pick Charlie up and took him to the barn to ride. I watched Charlie ride, and didn’t get my horse out. I talked with my close friend at the barn for a bit as well. She asked a lot of questions, and said a friend of her’s went through it as well. She mentioned a lot of what her friend said, and I was impressed that she cared enough to talk to others about it and understand what I was going through. It was nice to have someone to really talk to about it.
I took Charlie home with me after his ride, and the two of us powered through some episodes of Heartland. Yes, it’s a cheesy preteen show based in Canada, but one of the girls at the barn got me hooked, and Charlie seemed to tolerate it. Either that, or he was just being nice. I did get a chance to talk to my Mom for a bit as she had called to check on me to see how I was doing. I had sent her and my Father a picture of me with my eye taped that morning, and they both said I was looking good.
Later that evening my business partner had gotten back from his trip and called me on the phone. We talked for a bit and I told him I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. I explained I didn’t want to tell him in email while on his trip, and really didn’t want to say anything until he saw me in-person since it really wasn’t that bad. We then caught up on the happenings with his shop, and our business.
April 11th I took Charlie to the shop with me. I saw Paul for a bit and explained to the staff what was going on with my face. I mostly walked around with sunglasses on since my eye was still taped. I met with one of the shop employees and went over ideas for marketing, and then took the rest of the day off to go home. I took a very long nap and Charlie got some xbox time in.
I woke up in the late afternoon very dizzie and still had a lot of trouble seeing. I ended up crying for a bit while I was waking up from my nap. The Bell’s Palsy had me cancelling the workshop and meetings with potential clients, which was causing the newly started business to take a turn to no income. My lease was coming up on my apartment, and with the reality of me having this for weeks, and possibly months, I came to the realization that I couldn’t stay in a place I most likely couldn’t afford. I called my Mom to talk to her about what was going on, and asked if I could stay with them again this summer while I get back on my feet. I don’t know if it was me, the situation I was in, or what, but the conversation went South. I shut down when she said “How did you get yourself into this mess?”. I really didn’t have an answer. She stopped herself and said that we should probably get off the phone. You see, I was my Daughter once, and my Mom and I both know now when things will go South enough to stop ourselves.
April 12th, nearly one week from being diagnosed. The dizziness and inability to see was still very prominent. Charlie went with me to the barn. As we arrived my close friend Cheryl was heading out on the trails and said she would wait if Charlie wanted to take Moe (his horse). I stayed behind and worked the younger horse, the one Katie has been riding, and the one that I have been breaking in. It stayed off of her, and just lunged her in the round pen. After Cheryl and Charlie got back, Dad was arrived and took Charlie home. I decided to ride Henry, though was nervous as my balance was off and was worried I wouldn’t be able to correct myself if he stumbled or spooked. I mostly walked him, and then trotted a bit. He seemed to understand that there was something going on as he was very careful with his footing. It really is amazing how horses are in tune to what is going on with their person. Henry and I have definitely formed a bond in the past months since I bought him, and he really knows how to take care of me.
The First Week Has Passed
At this point I have had Bell’s Palsy now for three weeks. It is April 30th and I am finishing up this post that was started from a few notes I took on my progress daily. I not only wanted to tell my story of my symptoms, but what I felt emotionally as well. From what I have been witnessing of others in the support group on Facebook is that everyone handles it differently. Most of all that is affected is your confidence. I shut down that first week by just focusing on sleeping, spending time with the horses, and avoiding people as much as possible. My second week I went back to being around people as I couldn’t allow this to affect my business. I have had back to back meetings, working around the clock, and working the horses a bit less so that work could get done. My last dose of Steroids was last week, just before I drove to Lake Chelan for a long weekend with friends. As I always say “Have laptop will work” I ended up closing two deals while I was supposed to be vacationing. Though, in-between getting some work done and writing those SOWs (statement of works) I went Kayaking, Hiking, drinking with friends, and quietly had a little wish paper burning ceremony as I asked for a love that would last the rest of my life and my friend burned a few to help her through the 10th anniversary of her Mother’s death.
I now feel pretty normal again. After two weeks, I posted to the Facebook Group that I felt like I was progressing pretty quickly. I detailed out the symptoms I had, and where I was at, and a lot of people responded saying I was very lucky. I was very diligent about taking my pills when I was supposed to. I took my Steroids once a day, every morning, and I had a timer set for every 8 hours for my antibiotics. I even woke up in the middle of the night to take them when the alarm went off.
I read that vitamin B is good, so I bought B-12 and a B complex with C and Zinc daily. I have a habit of chewing the inside of my cheeks, a habit my Mother is always telling me to stop. Well, I think this time it might have helped – as I reached for those back parts of my cheek on the right side to chew, I inadvertently worked those muscles. My smile has improve considerably, though I did notice when I drink the Bell’s Palsy gets worse again (so I’m not drinking anymore). On my long drive to Lake Chelan I was practicing my smile for the 3.5 hours. Everyone I tell that to laughs at my story.
Bell’s Palsy Makes Me Feel Like a Freak
I have noticed that a lot of the people that post their pictures in the group look very normal to me. I started then realizing that to others I looked quite normal, even if I felt like Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack. In fact, his picture was my profile picture in Facebook for a long time. At first when friends would tell me I looked good, I thought that they were just being nice and supportive. I started believing them as I realized that all of those people posting pictures of themselves in the group and saying they felt like freaks, or not normal, or all kinds of comments on themselves that the rest of us couldn’t see, where going through the same emotional insecurities that I was facing while the rest of the world saw a perfectly beautiful and normal face. At times I even equated my face to the elephant man when I had to take off my sunglasses and people would see me with the tape and half droopy face. There is this look of shock on people’s faces right before the correct themselves and force their eyes on you and make their face seem emotionless so as not to offend you, but I knew what was going on in their heads. Yeah, they thought “Oh my!” at first then “Oh that poor girl.” then to “I hope I didn’t look shocked.” all in a matter of seconds. At least, that’s how I felt.
Some people would ask what was going on, while other avoided me altogether. I did find that forewarning in email that second week when I took meetings before they saw me helped. That at least gave them time to Google “Bell’s Palsy” and understand what it was I told them I had before seeing me in-person. Those were the ones that asked questions, and openly talked about it with me.
That only lasted the first couple of weeks. After that I started to feel normal as the symptoms would subside. My hearing got better, and the dizziness went away the second week. Twitching of the lip, eyelid, and at times the cheek, would happen frequently, and still does. My eyesight is still bad at times. I did find that drinking and being tired makes that part worse. My vision in my right eye is so bad it even affects my driving at times. I have always had perfect 20/20 vision, so this is something new to me. I am often thinking I should get my eyes checked and get glasses, but then I wake up in the morning somewhat able to see and then getting blurry as the day progresses. I’m sure if I had my eyes checked that the strength of the prescription would change from when I would get checked to a different part of the day, and then the next day, and weeks later. So, I am going to wait it out and get through as best I can.
As for who I told on Facebook – I didn’t tell anyone really, or make any sort of announcement. I have two accounts I keep: 1) For marketing with over 4,000 friends in the industry. 2) My very personal where my family and closest friends are on.
All of those I see on a regular basis received either a phone call or text from me. I also sent emails to a few friends I stay in touch with that are in California. With the changing of my profile picture on my personal account to Bill Murray, I received some funny comments, so a comment was made about having Bell’s Palsy. Only those that pay attention to my profile picture saw the comment.
Yesterday I posted to my personal Facebook account all the things going on in my life. I started with the moving out of the apartment into a friend’s condo (who is graciously offering me a place to stay for a while). I finished with the positives of Bell’s Palsy clearing up much faster that most people experience, that my business is picking up considerably, and that the benefits of the movers losing half of my stuff during my last move is that I am packing up much faster than I have before.
My Daughter and I are talking a bit again in emails. I’m not sure if we will repair what happened anytime soon, but I did make an attempt by purchasing a Graduation dress for her while I was in Chelan. We have also been emailing in regards to her doing some work for the pet shop (she is a really good writer and researcher, and my business partner really wants her to keep writing). I am picking my Son up tomorrow after a short hiatus from him. His horse misses him, and it really is a lot of fun watching him ride and take care of Moe.
So there you have it – my novel of what it has been like to have Bell’s Palsy. Three weeks in the making. I will now post this as an announcement to all of my Facebook accounts, and maybe some will read this, and most probably won’t. Those that do read it, probably won’t make it to this last paragraph. If you did, it would be neat to know you did, so be sure to leave a comment that you have, and share the post our to your own Facebook.
You Look Pretty Darn Good!
I leave you with my parting thoughts. My lesson learned is that your perception of yourself isn’t always what other people see. It’s a lesson taught to us as children that we dismiss as our minds take over what we know we should be thinking as we get older and feel insecure about ourselves. But this is the truth. People aren’t just being nice when they pay you a compliment – they truly mean what they say. You really do look good, and anything you are stressing about, whether it be Bell’s Palsy or how funny you think your nose looks, to all of us that see you more than you see yourself, trust us… We think you look pretty good!